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Flexibility In Below Parallel Squats

Hello everybody,

I work out at a gym for quite some time now. I already do deadlifts in which I can maintain very strict form. However, in the squat thats not the case. I read Rippetoes starting strength and I see the point in going below parallel. I can go slightly ABOVE parallel no problem. As I continue to go down what happens is the following:

First my pelvis begins to tilt backwards. After that my lower back gets slightly rounded. I believe the pelvis tilt causes / contributes to that. This happens without weight! Considering I have a rather pronounced lordosis, my spine is WAY off of its’ natural position. Before I lay on any weights I really want to get rid of my inflexibility first.

I know that I have really tight hamstrings. In the following position, I cant even get to 90 degrees:
http://pilatesmastery.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/hamstring-stretch.jpg
Will stretching out my hamstrings fix this problem completely? What else will I need to do?

Id really appreciate your advice!

Try elevating your heels about a half inch like standing on a 5 or 10lbs plate. See if that helps if it does then I reccomend active stretching sand investing in Oly shoes.

A video is the best way to analyze a potential form problem. Trying to provide advice based on a verbal description of what you think is happening is unlikely to yield useful advice, imo.

In any event, static stretching hamstrings is mostly a wast of time, imo, especially if you are not using techniques to get the muscle to relax before stretching it.

i already tried raising my heels. doesnt alter the situation.

heres a quick video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jOjRp1GLq8
3 reps parallel, pause
4 reps below, pause
2 reps on the edge

you can see my form break down completely as i go below parallel. pelvis tilts back and the lower back rounds out.

you are pretty close. i think the issue looks to me to be one of neuromuscular control. i can see how your pelvis tucks under at the bottom. the answer is to… not let it. to learn how you need to hold yourself. for me it is imaginging myself ‘sitting into’ my hip flexors.

slow down your descent. one… two… three… three and a half. maybe even four. you should feel your hip flexors stretch out as you descend. it isn’t supposed to feel entirely comfortable. it should feel like work.

if you can’t feel when your pelvis starts to tuck then try looking side on to a mirror. don’t be afraid to pause in the as low as you can go without pelvic tuck position. hold it there. then try and push it a bit deeper. a little light bouncing. learn how it feels to hold your pelvis securely in position then push depth.

some people find holding a weight out front (dumbbell or kettlebell) helps them push themselves down lower into their hip flexors, too.

seems to me you are on the right track. couple more sessions and you should have it…

“The secret to breaking the parallel is pulling yourself down with your hip flexors. Here is how to learn this skill. Lie on your back with your legs straight. Place your hands on your hip flexors, right below your ‘lower abs’. Have your training partner hold on to your ankles and provide some resistance. Arch your lower back - the opposite of a crunch - and press your tailbone into the deck. Slowly pull your knees all the way up to your chest against your buddy’s resistance. Not the hip flexor contraction.
When you squat recreate the above sensation: actively pull yourself down and back with your hip flexors instead of passively yielding to the gravity. You will instantly go deeper, improve your control of the weight, and tighten up the arch in your lower back. This results in a bigger, deeper, and safer squat.”

  • from Beyond Bodybuilding by Pavel Tsatsouline

Do some front squats

You might take a hot bath to relax before trying doing it real slow as described in previous post. Also eat 4 times as many vegetables they are alkaline and stress reducer. Allways exhale deeply it will keep you from acidity and tensing. All these will do tid bits to improve your situation over your efforts to improve what you are doing now. A youtube search about hips mobility/rehab might provide video help. This is no joke but smiling outside or at least inside might be a plus. Try relaxing your face and neck area. Ever tried foam rolling?

BENCH SQUATS MY AMIGO!

Put a flat bench in the rack when you squat or if the bench’s available are too high use some jump boxes to the height you need.

I have been coaching my very large friend and He has lost a couple of stone and the single biggest improvement is how muscular and defined his quads and hamstrings look from squatting below parallel.

He has long femurs so he found it hard at first but now his form is brilliant and we moved the bench today and he was using perfect form every set. I think the hardest part for him was remembering to stick his ass out and lower with his butt, not his knees.

I always think of trying to sit on one of those really low children stools, keeps my form good.

[quote]alexus wrote:
"The secret to breaking the parallel is pulling yourself down with your hip flexors. [/quote]

The plates rattle differently when you pull yourself down , rather than letting yourself falll down.

[quote]alexus wrote:
you are pretty close. i think the issue looks to me to be one of neuromuscular control. i can see how your pelvis tucks under at the bottom. the answer is to… not let it. to learn how you need to hold yourself. for me it is imaginging myself ‘sitting into’ my hip flexors.

slow down your descent. one… two… three… three and a half. maybe even four. you should feel your hip flexors stretch out as you descend. it isn’t supposed to feel entirely comfortable. it should feel like work.

if you can’t feel when your pelvis starts to tuck then try looking side on to a mirror. don’t be afraid to pause in the as low as you can go without pelvic tuck position. hold it there. then try and push it a bit deeper. a little light bouncing. learn how it feels to hold your pelvis securely in position then push depth.

some people find holding a weight out front (dumbbell or kettlebell) helps them push themselves down lower into their hip flexors, too.

seems to me you are on the right track. couple more sessions and you should have it…
[/quote]
x2 on this.
I had/have the exact same problem as you. Bad posterior pelvic tilt at and below parallel. Last winter I strained my low back from years of squatting without pelvic control and have been working ever since to fix it. At the time I was squatting low bar, with flat heels.
For a while after I hurt myself I tried high bar squats until I kept hurting more and more, and then front squats until I kept hurting more and more. I was stubborn, and didn’t want to drop the weights I was using and basically start over from scratch.
This summer I discovered how to actively do what alexus described: maintaining pelvic neutral as I descend into the squat (it is all about neuromuscular control). It took a lot of effort at first. I felt like I was fighting tension in my posterior hips and glutes. I went back to squatting in my weightlifting shoes (elevated heels), high bar, and I always start my squat workouts with a dynamic warmup and foam rolling/self myofascial release for my glutes and piriformis. Before I hurt myself I was squatting in the low 400s. When I started rebuilding my squat I didn’t go over 135 for a few weeks, and have yet to squat over 295 since. It’s slow, frustrating work, but it is worth it. My back hasn’t felt this good in a very long time.